When you do research work, you become part of a larger effort to understand the world and make it a better place.

Research on human beings comes with special responsibilities. In the United States, we have ethical standards for research on human beings. Ethical standards help us decide the right and moral ways to act.

You are responsible for helping the research team live up to the ethical standards. These standards allow us to gain knowledge while respecting the rights of all.

About this site

This Web site is for people who do research work in communities. Research work includes recruiting people for research, handing out questionnaires and interviewing people. This site is also for research supervisors.

This site will:

  • help you understand the ethical standards for research
  • help you do your work better
  • help you contribute to making a positive difference in the world

You should also know that:

  • Reading the information on this site and thinking about the applications should take about one hour.
  • You can read the sections in any order.
  • You can use the side menu to move to new topics.
  • You can use the bottom menus to move around within a topic.
  • The site can be used alone or with a group.
  • There are no tests, only things to learn and to think about.
  • You can stop reading the site at any time.
  • You can come back to the site at any time.

We made this Web site after talking with people who do research work in the community. It reflects how front-line research workers and their supervisors understand ethical issues in their work.

This project was funded by the Office of Research Integrity. The official title of the project is Educating Staff in Community Agencies about Human Subjects Protection in Research.

The Office of Research Integrity is a federal agency that provides education about research ethics and enforces the ethical standards discussed in this Web site.

Throughout the site, we connect the discussion to three principles:

  1. Respect: Treat each person as a free individual with dignity
  2. Beneficence: Do good and avoid harm
  3. .Justice: Treat people fairly

These principles are explained in an important government document called the Belmont Report. The Belmont Report was written in 1979. The principles of the Belmont Report guide research ethics with human subjects across the U.S. (Click here to read more.)


This site has four sections that explain ideas: The Research Protocol, Recruiting Participants, Confidentiality, and Professionalism. The Applications section shows how these ideas apply to real life. You can use the sections in different ways. You could:

  • Read the ideas sections in a group (using a projector) and then discuss the applications together
  • Read the ideas sections by yourself and then discuss the applications in a group
  • Read the applications first and then read the ideas sections in a group or by yourself

Now choose a topic from the side menu near the top of this page, and start thinking!

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